In front of 40,000 plus fans on hand at the Hong Kong Sevens, Samoa has claimed their third consecutive IRB World Series tournament championship with a 24-21 win over rival New Zealand. The win vaults Samoa to the top of the IRB Series standings.
The decisive score was notched by Mikaele Pesamino late in the second half to give Samoa the lead for good and continue their recent dominance of the series.
Samoa's opponent in last week's final, the USA, had their run at the Hong Kong Sevens come to an end with a 21-12 loss to Australia in the Plate Semifinals.
The USA started the final day of the tournament with the daunting task of facing Samoa in the Cup Quarterfinals. The USA held tough in the first half and took a 7-5 lead into halftime behind a try from Matt Hawkins and conversion from Nese Malifa.
The lead held almost three minutes into the second half as the USA looked to pull off the upset. Unfortunately, the powerful Samoa finally broke through and they did it in a big way. Lolo Lui, Fautua Otto, and Mikaele Pesamino scored tries in a crushing three minute span to erase the USA’s hopes of moving on.
With the loss in the Cup round, the USA fell to the Plate Semifinal where they faced off against Australia.
The USA jumped out to a 5-0 lead midway through the first half behind a try from Kevin Swiryn, his eight of the tournament.
Just as in the match against Samoa, the USA ran into a rough patch of play as the first half was about to expire. In the minute before halftime, Australia punched in two tries to take a 14-5 lead.
The USA cut the lead to 14-12 behind a try from Shalom Suniula just after halftime. The two teams then battled the remainder of the half with Australia putting the game away with a late try by Kimami Sitauti to end the scoring at 21-12.
A far cry from the 36-0 shutout Australia put on the Americans last week, but still a disappointing result for the USA. Two separate lapses in play against Samoa and then Australia cost the USA potential victories.
The explosive power and pace of the elite in the sevens world punishes any lapse in play and that is something that the USA will need to improve as they find themselves playing in more and more Cup rounds.
Despite the two losses on the final day of play in Hong Kong, the USA comes away with eight more IRB series points. The USA’s current tally of 32 points is a record for for the team and they have also picked up points in three straight tournaments which is also a record.
With that, the USA’s most successful leg ever played on the IRB Series comes to an end. Two more stops on the IRB Series (London and Edinburgh) remain and provide the USA two more opportunities to prove themselves this season.
With their core status nearly clinched for next season, the pressure to qualify has been relieved and the USA can concentrate on winning more games with the always improving squad.
Hong Kong Sevens Winners
Shield: Hong Kong